2014 Year-End Review

Another year, another job, moving on, and beginning to begin again.


I graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1976. Two year later I applied for a faculty position there in the English department. I was accepted into a program whereby the Air Force would send me to school for my Master’s degree in 1983 with assignment to the Academy starting in 1984. In 1982, however, I decided it was time to move on and resigned my Air Force commission, foregoing the opportunity to work for my alma mater.

I completed my Master’s  degree in Educational Psychology at the University of New Mexico in 2012. Two years later I applied for a position at the UNM Health Sciences Center (the medical school). For reasons I still don’t understand, the position was classified as a faculty position. After a three-month application and interview process, I was offered the position. This time I accepted the offer and started the new job with my second alma mater on January 5, 2015, as the Deputy Director for Operations of the UNM Health Sciences Library & Informatics Center (HSLIC) in Albuquerque.

Funny how things work out. And wherever I go, irony seems to tag along – the lowest grade I earned at the Academy was a “D” in Life Sciences (i.e., Health Sciences).

January-April Recap

Because I was four months delinquent in producing my 2013 report, I included three significant items from early 2014 in that post, including:

  1. A surprise 60th birthday party planned, organized, and near-flawlessly executed by my lovely and loving daughter Stacy.
  2. With two colleagues (Mary Lahman from Manchester University in Indiana and Greg Thompson from BYU in Utah), collaborated to design and deliver a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on general semantics to over 1,300 students from 67 countries.
  3. A video clip I posted on my YouTube channel from a Real Time with Bill Maher interview with Mike Rowe really resonated with viewers. As of today it’s received over 250,000 views and generated over 800 viewer comments, while the full channel (youtube.com/slingingsteve) has received more than 320,000 views and has over 120 subscribers.

Stacy Stockdale Trotter

After being together for three years, and engaged for two, Stacy and Chris eloped in July. Deciding to forego a conventional/traditional wedding, they opted for a destination/travel wedding, or planned elopement. Because so much of Stacy’s life revolves around photography, she wanted to have her close friend and fellow photographer Allison Harp take her wedding photos. Allison was in Oregon for the summer, so they picked a picturesque spot overlooking Crater Lake in southern Oregon for the July 28th ceremony.

Stacy asked me to make the first toast. Not trusting myself to extemporaneously do justice to the occasion, I wrote the following:

I’d like to offer the first toast to my daughter Stacy and son-in-law Chris by relating two personal stories.

In 1965, I was a 5th grader in Pampa, Texas. My dad was the high school band director and arranged for Doc Severinson to come to Pampa and give two concerts with his high school band. (If you don’t recognize the name Doc Severinson, think of him as to Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show as Questlove is to Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show).

As a young record collector with two Beatles albums, I was very excited when my dad announced they were going to make an album of the concert recordings. “We’ll be rich!” I thought. Then the box of sample pressings arrived. The first album my dad pulled out of the box had a completely black cover with three words in big white letters:

“We’re not going to be rich,” I realized. As we finished listening to the recording, I heard the narrator explain: Unlike the commercial recordings on the market today, the memories of this night, the musical lessons it has taught, are … well like the cover on the album says … NOT FOR SALE.

Since then I’ve learned and experienced what that means. A NOT FOR SALE moment may be recorded and photographed and described, but it cannot be replicated or felt or experienced as it was in the moment of the experience.

The second story involved a dinner I had with Stacy when she was in the 6th or 7th grade. We were at Old Spaghetti Warehouse in Bedford. I don’t think either one of us was in a very good mood. She seemed kind of mopey and I was agitated with the slow service. I complained about it until she had had enough.

“Dad!” She forcefully put her right forearm out in front of her, vertical with her hand above, then slowly rotated at the elbow until her forearm was parallel to the table. The non-verbal message was clear: Bring it DOWN!

When our food arrived I was shocked and embarrassed to see Stacy eating her spaghetti with her fingers. With no patience at all I made it clear she was to use her fork. She kept eating with her fingers. “Stacy! Stop that! People are going to look at you. Nobody eats their spaghetti with their fingers – that’s not the way people eat spaghetti!”

She looked around and shrugged. “Well, that’s how I do it.”

I have to confess that response is not what I expected and not what I wanted to hear at the time. But in hindsight it did not completely disappoint me.

Now, over the past 38 months, Chris and Stacy’s life together, including their elopement and even this celebration, hasn’t exactly gone according to any relationship blueprint or wedding planner’s guide. But in their own ways and through their own love and caring for each they’ve already created three years of memories that are NOT FOR SALE.

So please join me in toasting the marriage of Chris and Stacy Trotter and wishing them many NOT FOR SALE moments in the future, which may include, if their own spirits so move, eating spaghetti with their fingers.

Our First MOOC

In June I attended my second InstructureCon conference hosted by the company that produces the Canvas Learning Management System (LMS). This year I went as a presenter, delivering a 30-minute (planned) session titled, “Our First MOOC” that related the experiences that Mary, Greg and I had in designing and delivering our online course mentioned earlier, “General Semantics: An Approach to Effective Communication.”

If you’re interested you can watch the video, read the transcript, and/or view the Powerpoint slides on my ThisIsNotThat site, or watch the video as posted on YouTube:

In my 2013 report, I shared a video clip of surprise musical guest M.C. Hammer dancing on my table. Last summer, the great surprise musical guest was one of my favorite New Swing bands from the late ’90s, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. It’s a shame there was no advance promotion and the weather was cold and dreary, but they were consummate professional and gave a great show to the few dozen who stayed to listen. Here’s a clip.

Nobody promised you a guardrail
Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Christmas 2014

Before moving to Albuquerque, I spent a week in the DFW area to spend Christmas with my sister and family, then met up with her family and my brother to visit my dad and his wife Juanise in east Texas, and finished with Stacy and Chris in Dallas.

The Year’s Etc.

With the help of my sister, I got into eBay trading in a medium-sized way. I primarily bought and sold Apple devices, after which I am perilously close to facing accusations of becoming a fan boy. Not every trade worked out, but I was able to significantly upgrade my personal Apple computers, phones, iPads, iPods, etc.

A friend in Albuquerque had given me an original photograph of J. Robert Oppenheimer that, according to her research, had never been published. She thought it might be worth something and gave it to me for safe keeping, in case it might come in handy if/when I get back to my historical novel about the Manhattan Project. The PBS “Antiques Roadshow” happened to come through Albuquerque last summer and I was able to procure a ticket. As I suspected, the photo was too damaged to be assessed due to a spilt liquid stain, unless/until I paid to have it professionally restored. But it was fun to be a part of the crowd and see what goes on behind the scenes of the show.

The New Job

Last August I received an email through a listserv that goes to IT leaders throughout New Mexico higher education institutions and major school districts. I found it intriguing in that it described a position with experience requirements that seemed almost impossible. It was for a medical school library, but “the library” was more than just a library – it included an IT department and a biomedical informatics department. (What is biomedical informatics?) The job posting emphasized experience in project management, process improvement, cross-functional interdisciplinary organization, and several other competencies. After re-reading it, I thought … I don’t think anybody is qualified for this, but I can make a pretty good case for myself.

I submitted my application on Labor Day. The following week I received an invitation for a Skype interview on September 29th. Next came an onsite interview on October 21st. The second week of November there was a follow-up conference call and initial discussions about an offer. I didn’t receive the official offer until December 4th and signed a contract as I was leaving town for Christmas on December 23rd.

One of the first people I contacted was Helen Harkness, who I started with as a career advisor/coach back in 2000. I’ve kept in touch with her through all my moves and fits and starts, including a short visit last April. I wrote to her to explain why I was excited about this job:

One of the exciting things about this position for me is that it will take advantage of every one of my previous jobs/careers. I can’t tell you how validating that feels. This is a case that proves the aphorism that every step you’ve ever taken is on the path that led you where you are today. But for now I just want to share the news with you and tell you again how much you and your program have meant to me.

I returned from the DFW area on the 29th, rented a moving truck on the 30th and moved all of my big items, and started work on January 5th. The UNM Health Sciences Library & Informatics Center (HSLIC) has a staff of about 60 people. My job title is Deputy Director for Operations with responsibilities that span the organization. So far, it’s been challenging and invigorating.

Looking Ahead, Inspired

As 2014 neared its end, a friend wished me well and, knowing of my moves, wished me the “best year ever.” That stopped me in my tracks. With the exception of my senior year at the Academy, I can’t ever remember thinking in terms of anticipating a “best year ever.” As an adult, especially since I’ve been doing these past 21 annual reviews, I’m quite cognizant of impending change and uncertainty, but I’ve never really expected or anticipated the possibility of “the best” ahead. For 2015, though, I have to say … yeah, maybe.

A good part of my optimism comes from two sources of late-year inspiration. In the fall I watched “Sonic Highways,” the HBO series created by Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters. Throughout the eight episodes, in which the band recorded a new song in eight American music recording meccas, Grohl related his own philosophies and ideas about music, musical history, and the creative process. His comments really resonated with me. One clip in particular, that concluded the episode in Nashville, I found inspiring enough to excerpt it here.

What struck me was how similar the sentiments expressed by these musicians – Dave Grohl, Dolly Parton, Zac Brown, Emmy Lou Harris, and Tony Joe White – are to the comments I noted in 2009 that were stated by Gloria Steinem: you need to do what only you can do.

Look for opportunities to do what only you can do. Break a senseless rule. Ask, “why?” Challenge authority. Take your own road. Sing your own song. Write your own verse. (Seriously, have you ever known anyone of consequence who was best known for following the rules? For just going along? For blindly conforming? “Yeah, that Harvey … he’s a terrific follower!”)

And if you should happen to one day feel an overpowering desire to ‘eat spaghetti with your fingers,’ what’s the worst that can happen? I’ll bet the world won’t end, nor will it probably even notice.

Looking ahead, I’m armed and fortified with some powerful sentiments to accompany me. As Dave Grohl sings in “In the Clear,” “there are times when I feel like givin’ in,” but looking ahead to 2015 I also know that “there are times I begin to begin again.” 2015 is one of those times. Again.

Here’s wishing you your best year ever!

@Nidividuate (Steve)